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People may be well adjusted to working from home by now, but it’s been a mixed bag of rewards. Our work efficiency might have increased but so have our stress levels. We are constantly chatting on our phones but we’re feeling lonelier. While there is much expert advice available on creating a healthy work-from-home environment, it was only through personal experience that we found, or are still finding, a rhythm that works for us. Whether it is keeping the hardest tasks for early morning or late at night when the children are asleep, using a standing desk or going for a walk while taking calls, or doing yoga midday, professionals from across India share productivity and self-care hacks they learnt this year.

Timetable, where are you?

It’s tempting to wear track pants all day or sleep at erratic hours, but after the initial fluidity in attire and schedule, many found a routine, which mimicked their pre-pandemic workday.

“I wake up, dress, exercise and eat at the same times as when I went to the office pre-lockdown. It required some discipline initially but has been useful to follow," says Bengaluru-based Hena Mehta, chief executive and co-founder of fintech startup Basis.

For Sonal Kumar, a schoolteacher in Noida, the initial phase was chaotic with online classes, helping her daughter with studies and taking out time for housework. “It’s important for me to follow a timetable, the way I used to in school, with time slots for correction, attending skill development webinars and meeting parents and students within set hours," she says. “On weekdays, we do not socialize with extended family or friends so that the usual flow of the day is not disturbed. "

A my-space please

Having a dedicated work area at home can be difficult, with several family members needing space and privacy for work or online classes. Sitting in an uncomfortable chair or slouched on the bed can lead to back or neck problems. That’s why investing in the right furniture, lighting and equipment to make your workspace as comfortable and distraction-free as possible is essential.

“I have a small home office in my room. After work, I just change the light settings and it transforms into an after-hours vibe," says Merril Diniz of Sheroes, a women-only social platform.

Finding some quiet time to concentrate within a busy household is also vital. Deepika Deepti, chief executive of clothing brand Bhaane, uses the early hours to clear her mails and plan her day. “It allows me midday breaks and time to share a meal with family. Also, a pair of noise-cancelling headphones has been the best investment during this period."

Let the music play

Some routine tasks can be done amid distractions, but there are those that require complete focus. “Since I do a lot of writing, the quiet time at home really helps me focus. Plus, one can help oneself to chai, do some pranayams or just take a stroll in between writing spells," says Diniz.

Kumar appreciates the calm at home while creating lesson plans. “With interspersed timetables, I now get a couple of hours for planning. I try to avoid my phone during this time, not giving into the temptations of online shopping or social media." she says. The right kind of noise can also be useful while thinking of creative ideas. “Some background music that helps me focus, sunlight, air and a good cup of coffee," says Mehta, about creating the right frame of mind.

Go social

Constant digital communication is necessary, though exhausting. “Space your calls with enough breaks; when possible connect via phone; even a change of scenery helps—sitting in an open space like a garden or a balcony," suggests Deepti.

Joining a new firm during the time of work from home can be challenging, an absence of history with colleagues making it difficult to forge meaningful relationships. Alisha Fernandes, a customer support associate at a Mumbai firm, has found the transition to a new company difficult, with only formal online interactions. But social media helped her to break the ice. “I connected with a colleague on Instagram. We exchanged comments over a post I had shared. I opened up to her more than I could with others at work. Connecting over out-of-office things makes a big difference." she says.

Deepti took over the reins of Bhaane two months before the March lockdown. “With little to do initially, I invested in exploring our team’s personalities, strengths and development areas. Gradually, we went into trainings and courses. It was possibly the best time for us to learn together."

Run, play, dance

With professional and personal lines blurred, many end up working long hours and not investing in physical and mental health with activities that help unwind. “A jog in the evening, if the air quality is tolerable, often helps that uneasy feeling of sitting online all day," says Kumar, adding, “I cook to destress and break the monotony of staying at home." Diniz has filled her time with activities that “feed her soul", like weekly virtual choir rehearsals, writing a sustainability blog and cycling. Deepti’s stress buster has been “a dose of regular puppy love". “I forget all the worries of the world when I’m with my pets."

Write to us at businessoflife@livemint.com

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